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It is only the Spirit of God that can make the discoveries of heaven in the gospel effectual to awaken our hope, and to raise our joy. He shews us how it is purchased by the blood of Christ, and that it is made sure to all those that believe: He stamps his own holy image upon us, and seals us up for the inheritance of heaven; Eph. i. 13. When ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed it, ye were then sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance. Spirit is sent into our hearts as a Spirit of adoption, whereby we call God Father; Gal. iv. 6. And he changes us from children of wrath into the sons and daughters of the living God; and he himself dwelling in us is a pledge and earnest of that inheritance, which is reserved for us among the saints in light.
It is the same blessed Spirit that makes the gospel of Christ powerful to mortify sin in us; for though the words of the gospel forbid all iniquity, and require us to renounce the lusts of the flesh, and the vanities of the world, if we belong to Christ; yet it is by the Spirit of God alone that we are enabled to mortify the deeds of the body, that we may obtain eternal life: It is he that makes the commands of Christ come with divine power and authority upon the soul, and gives the motives of the gospel power to persuade us: It is he that renews our affections, makes us hate sin, and love God supremely, and causes us to delight in the spiritual pleasures of a future, unseen world, which before we treated with contempt, or disregard: It is by the sanctification of the Spirit and the belief of the truth, shut we pared fo the heavenly glory whereunto we are called by the gospel; 2 Thess. ii. 13. And since the Spirit of God is promised to dwell in us for John xiv. 16, 17. we have good reason to believe he will be our eternal Sanctifier in heaven and our eternal Comforter.
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attending the gospel of Christ. The apostle ages inus With the Galatian christians, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the And it is the great law, or by the hearing of faith? Gal. iii. 2. promise of the gospel, or the new covenant, that God would send his Spirit to make it powerful for the blessed ends for which he has designed it; Ezek. xxxvi. 25, 26, 27. Joel. ii. 28. Zech. xii. 10. Is. xliv. 3.
In the primitive days of christianity, and the age of miracles, the Holy Spirit attended the preaching of the gospel with his extraordinary gifts of tongues, of healing, of prophecy, as well as with the graces of conviction, and sanctification, and comfort: And the suddenness and the glory of the change that was wrought on sinners carried with it an illustrious and incontested proof of the presence and power of God and his Spirit. Nor have some fainter resemblances of such glorious grace been alto
gether wanting in later ages. There have been some most remarkable instances of great sinners converted at once by the gospel of Christ, and the demonstrations of the Spirit.
But in his more usual and ordinary communications of grace, he works so gently upon our natures, and in so sweet and connatural a way, as not to distinguish his agency in a sensible manner from the motions of our own souls; for he never disturbs our rational powers, nor puts any violence upon the natural faculties; yet when we are changed, when we are renewed, when sin is mortified, the scripture tells us, that it is the Spirit of God has done it: When our souls are prepared for heaven, and our corrupted natures sanctified, and suited to the things that are prepared in heaven for us, we are assured by the word of God, that the Holy Spirit has been the great operator, and has wrought this change Thus I have made it appear at large, how the gospel of Christ is the power of God to salvation. I apply myself immediately to raise a few inferences from the subject I have been treating of.
It is a
Inference.-I. How unreasonable are all the reproaches that are cast upon this gospel! A gospel that saves mankind from misery, and from sin, and eternal death! A gospel that teaches men how to appear before a holy and terrible God with comfort, though their sins are many, and their righteousnesses are imperfect! A gospel that gives the hope of pardon to criminals and rebels, and the hope of heaven to undeserving creatures! And all this upon such solid grounds and foundations as justifies its highest prises and propoulo gospel that changes our sinful natures into holiness, and reforms our hearts as well as lives! A gospel that, aided by divine powerz creates souls anew, and raises dead sinners to life! It is a gospel that turns wolves into per bat so disturbs the kingdom of Satan, as to take thousands of slaves and captives out of his dominions, to transfer them into the glorious kingdom of Christ, and make them chearful and willing subjects! A gospel that fulfils gloriously the first promise, and makes it appear, that the seed of the woman hath broke the serpent's head, and destroyed the works of the devil. You have never seen, you have never known, you have never learned this gospel aright, if you have not felt it to be the power of God unto salvation. Those that can speak evil of this gospel, it may be universally said concerning them, they speak evil of the things they know not; for if they had known this gospel as they ought to know it, they would have seen it all over glorious and divine; they would have felt it to be attended with divine power to their salvation, and then they would never speak evil of it.
The heathen world may be ashamed of their doctrines and their religion; the heathen worshippers may be ashamed of their sacrifices, their superstitions, and their forms of devotion; for they have no power to save their souls: And many of them were indeed brutish and shameful. Mahomet, the founder of the Turkish religion, may be ashamed of his alcoran, and volume of fables and incredible lies; all his followers may be ashamed of their prophet, and of the sensual paradise that he promises them. The Jews, under the eye of Christ, and the sun-beams of the gospel, may be ashamed of the vain traditions of their rabbins which were never divine: and even of their old rites and ceremonies which Moses gave them; for all these are now but weak and beggarly elements; the Spirit of God calls them so; Gal. iv. 9. They have now no power to save souls, since God hath abolished them; nor indeed had they ever any power but what they borrowed from this gospel of Christ, which lay concealed in them: But let none of us that believe and profess the gospel of Christ, be ever ashamed of any of the doctrines, or precepts, or promises of it; for they are all holy, they are all heavenly; all of them have divine power accompanying them to lead souls to salvation.
II. Learn hence the true method of obtaining christian courage; courage to profess the gospel of Christ against all opposition: It is by getting it wrought into your hearts and lives by christian experience, and not by learning a mere form of words in a road education and catechism. You must feel it as the power of God to your nation, or you will never suffer much for it: Let it be an ingrafted word able to save your souls; James i. 21. and then it will harden your faces against all blaspheming adversaries, and the terrors of a persecuting world then you will be able to render a most powerful reason why you a bold to profess this gospel, and to answer every one that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you; you will be able to oppose those that set themselves against the gospel of Christ, when you feel this divine spring of courage within you.
I have encouraged you before, to acquaint yourselves with reasons and arguments that may defend your religion, and support your faith: But hours of temptation may come, when all the knowledge and learned furniture of your head, all the arguments that are treasured up in your memory, and all the reasonings that your invention can supply you with, will hardly be able to keep your faith and hope firm and stedfast; for Satan goes before you in skill and rational argument; and though your arguments are strong and solid, yet he may baffle you by his hellish sophistry, and thus cheat you of your faith, and your hope, and your heaven, if you have not got this gospel wrought into your
hearts with power, if you have not felt it to be the power of God unto salvation.
Hence it comes to pass, that in times of great temptation and persecution there are many fall away, as the leaves of a tree in the blasts of autumn, when but here and there one stands and endures the shock: It is because there are so few of the professors of the gospel have felt it to be the power of God to the conversion of their souls, and turning their hearts to God and heaven, And hence it comes to pass also, that several unlearned christians in all ages, that could not argue much for the faith in a rational way, yet could dare to die for it, because they had this argument wrought in their own souls; they had felt a divine power going along with it to change their natures, to make them new creatures, to give them the hope of heaven, and a preparation for it.
III. From what you have heard of this subject, learn the wide extent of this argument for the defence of the gospel of Christ, and the invaluable worth of it to every christian, viz. that the gospel is the power of God to your salvation.
It is an argument of wide extent: for it belongs to every christian, to the wise and to the unwise, to the weak and the strong; there is no sincere christian, no true believer in Christ, but hath got the foundation of this argument wrought within him: He knows this gospel is divine, and he should not be ashamed to believe and profess it; for he hath felt it support his soul und sense of guilt, and give him solid hope of pandaning grace. He hath found it change his sinful nature, soften his heart into repentance, and turn him from a sinner into a saint; it hath laid the foundation of eternal life within him. And as it is an argument that belongs to every true christian; so it answers every objection that an infidel can bring against the gospel, either from the doctrines, or from the professors of it: And methinks, I would fain have you all furnished with this glorious argument, and learn to manage it for the defence of your faith.
Do they tell you, that the doctrines of the gospel contain mysteries in them, and things that are unsearchable? Do they endeavour to put you out of countenance by ridiculing the truth of christianity, as being contrary to the common opinions and reasonings of men? Do they reproach them as foolish and unreasonable, and do they endeavour to persuade you that they are not suf ficiently attested, and there is not ground enough to give credit to them? Though there have been particular answers given to each of these cavils in the first discourse; yet you may give this general and short reply to all of them, and say, " I am sure they are not contrary to reason: for they are divine. They are not incredible, nor do they want sufficient evidence; for God him
self by his own Spirit has borne witness to them in my heart: He has wrought an almighty work there by the means of this gospel: He has created me anew unto faith, and hope, and holiness: He has turned my heart from earth to heaven, and subdued the sinful inclinations of my nature by the precepts, by the promises, by the glorious discoveries of this gospel: He has made use of it to save my soul; and I carry about me an incontrolable proof that it came from heaven." Now though this sort of argument may have but little force in it sometimes for the conviction of the infidel; yet it is of sufficient force to establish the believer.
But I proceed. Do they fill your ears with the mean and contemptible character of the professors of this gospel? Do they charge many of them with vicious practices! Do they tell you of their different opinions, their contests and their quarrels ? And do they discourage you by pointing to the apostates that have forsaken the faith? You may defend yourself and your profession against all these objections by the same general argument thus; "Are the professors of it some of the mean and base things of this world? But they are saints, and this gospel has made them so; they are the sons and daughters of the most high God by faith in this gospel; and I will not be ashamed to reckon myself of their society, and to number myself amongst them. Are there many that are called christians, whose lives are vicious? Surely they never knew this gospel in truth; they are but false professors of it. There are thousands that can bear this witness to the gospel, that it has changed their hearts; it has renewed their natures: it has made them hate every vice, and their lives shine amongst men glorious in holiness, and resembling God himself. Are the sentiments of some of them different from others? It is chiefly in points of lesser importance; but the substantial truths of it, which are the power of God to salvation, are professed and acknowledged by us all. And though a thousand should forsake this gospel, and become apostates, yet I can never part with it, while I feel the blessed effects of it abiding upon my heart, and I trust, through the grace of God, they shall abide for ever."
This leads me to the last inference.
IV. What strong engagements is every true christian under to maintain the profession of this gospel? Not only is he laid under many obligations from the commands of God, and the bonds of duty, and gratitude, and love, but he has a constant pressing obligation within him. "How can I be ashamed of my hope, my portion, my everlasting all? Shall I be ashamed of that gospel, upon which my salvation is founded, and my best and highest interest, even my expectations of endless felicity? If I let go this faith, if I lose my hold of this gospel, I let go my hold